At a meeting where a city councilmember dressed down a consultant over a $17,000 project it was impossible not to notice the discrepancy when the same council approved a $100,000 grant for yet another economic development incubator.
The difference? The man involved with the $17,000 contract is an African-American working to get the city’s Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise program off the ground. The group behind the $100,000 grant is the same set of economic development power players, with names including Greensboro Partnership, Action Greensboro and Opportunity Greensboro, that come time and again to council seeking six and seven figure infusions of cash.
And they are all white. It’s impossible to deny that a rising tide lifts all boats. Areas of Greensboro that are traditionally home to majority African American populations are diseased with poverty, joblessness, and too often, hopelessness.
Increasing the number of successful black-owned businesses in those areas of the city could increase employment. Even if one job is created that supports one family in a high-poverty area, wouldn’t we judge that a success? No one likes quotas, but a city policy that aids minority-owned small businesses in growing their capacity to win construction and other service contracts is a win-win for society.
City council grilled a consultant involved with the MWBE program, and then later grilled a representative of the community development group that provides micro-loans to small businesses in distressed communities. These are the very sectors of the economy that have the most potential for significant growth.
Yet when Action Greensboro representatives came before the council, these same council members sat silently by as they shamelessly asked for $100,000 to pay the salary of the director of a program that duplicates the services provided at the Nussbaum Center.
Economic development is about choices. As the traditional powerbrokers in the city’s economic development infrastructure continue to flail about looking for traction, perhaps more money should be driven into other sectors of the city. !
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